Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Affirmation - the frosting on the cake

I've been incredibly taken by the above Sesame Street video the last few days. Though I'm a pale girl with stick-straight hair who heard about this on NPR (how white can I get?), I applaud this African-American puppet's message. And it's even sweeter since the song was written by a daddy for his daughter who was struggling to appreciate her awesome afro locks.

One thing I love about being back in America (the land of self-esteem) is how many encouraging messages I'm constantly privy to. Even though I've heard countless Brits deride my culture of cheesy encouragement and mock how AWESOME!!! everything is to Americans, I strangely enjoy the abundance of compliments flying around here.

When I moved to England in 2005 I was in for a bit of a shock. There are plenty of encouraging people in the UK, but in general, the main method of connecting with one another is through cynicism and self-deprecation rather than positivity and praise. As my high school counselor for at-risk students friend once told me, in America self-deprication is a signal of a mental illness: not liking yourself is suspect. But in England (and New Zealand actually), it's a mark of social prowess: liking yourself too much is suspect.

So when I got to the shores of the mother ship, I wasn't prepared to not be told how great I was every five minutes. I couldn't read people and thought surely they hated me because they didn't tell me straight up, "I like you Alisha!" I didn't realize yet that being made fun of was a signal of endearment or that most compliments remain unspoken but understood in the UK.

When Dan and I were living in New Zealand, our friends Mel and Mark (which sounds suspiciously close to "Mack" in a kiwi-accent) had us over for a night of Chinese take-out, Hong Kong cinema and as a grand finale, a self-saucing chocolate cake! Definitely evidence of kiwi-ingenuity, this cake is not only delicious and practical, but also a premium metaphorical vehicle.

After enough times feeling shot down by failed friendship attempts and wondering if the people I was working with thought I was the worst employee in the world when I first arrived in England, I slowly learned the lesson of the self-saucing cake (though the lesson was unnamed at that point). Instead of waiting for other people to frost me up real good with positive feedback, I learned to do it myself, with inner resources of proverbial chocolate goodness.

Instead of waiting for a new contact to gush about how wonderful they thought I was (rare), I'd just assume they liked me and get on with it. (And even if they didn't like me, I learned not to care). Instead of waiting for a boss to tell me things were OK ever 5 minutes, I assumed they were unless told otherwise. Instead of waiting for a coating of sweet frosting, I'd just muster up some good British resourcefulness and create my own.

On Monday at Shari's over a yummy pie, a new friend of mine was talking about a phenomenon called "nurture shock", which basically means that kids who are overencouraged and affirmed too much (read: American kids) can actually be adversely affected. They can come to depend on constant approval or set their expectations of themselves way too high and be paralyzed by the reality that they're not perfect.

I will always be a "words of affirmation" girl and I enjoy encouraging people, so that's never going to change. But I do recognize value in learning not to be dependent on affirmation and positive feedback. Going through an affirmation drought was difficult as first, but in the long run was a great way to confront hidden insecurities and my need to please people; I had to dig deep, be my own self-saucing cake and then get over it.

It's nice to be back in the land of positivity. But looking back I am also thankful to England for teaching me a thing or too about not being so dependent on external affirmation. I'm also thankful to New Zealand (and the Gregans specifically) for introducing me to this saucy little delight.

This is kind of a big question, but do you think you depend on other people's affirmations to keep you going? Do you think you're a people-pleaser? Or do you just want the recipe for the now infamous self-saucing cake?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Alisha's food rules

To say that this week has been busy would be an understatement. How did it get to Thursday night and I still haven't posted anything?!

I'm reinstating the buoy because of late I've been unable to stop collecting great foodie resources & I've got to share them (don't want to be selfish). I'm not much of a typical foodie (no red wine or goats cheese for me, arigato), but I still can appreciate high-quality food when it goes in the mouth. Also lately I've been nibbling on some sweet culinary memoirs -- sometimes reading about food is as satisfying as actually consuming it. Who knew?

I'll share my links in a second, but I was wondering if people wanted to share their personal "food rules". Michael Pollan's only got about 64 (my favorite being #13, eat only foods that will eventually rot), but I think I can be more streamlined & stick to three. These aren't taped on my fridge or anything, but they are my main sub-conscious filters when I fire up the stove.

Alisha's food rules:

1. simple (food should add value, not stress)
2. unprocessed (could all the ingredients in this product be found in a well-stocked cupboard vs. science lab?)
3. local and organic where possible (enough said)

The amount of food rules I've constrained myself to in the past would vie with Mr.Pollan, but most of my own have been pretty stupid (ie daily Diet Dr. Pepper senior year of college) until the past few years, when I think I've got it down to the essentials and feel healthy and happy overall.

Without further ado, here are some amazing, as-close-to-edible-as-you'll-get links:



Food activism (the tastiest kind)

Taco trucks
  • el camion on 15th and Market (this one's for you Ballard)! Is it bad to eat fish burritos 3x/ week? Of course not.

What are your go-to food blogs? And what would you say are your unwritten food rules?

{Photo by cafemama}

Sunday, 10 October 2010

10 on 10:: October - Pumpkin Motif

This weekend was eventful...a friend's beautiful 30th birthday celebration, an explosive butternut squash risotto (literally, we had an explosion in our kitchen - slightly traumatic) and an accidental cult visitation. We thought we were going to a neighborhood "Japanese Bazaar" today but who knew that the Family Church of Peace is linked to the Moonies? We live and learn.

Enjoy this month's 10 on 10, check out others here and put it in the calendar for next month if you want to get in on the action!

I hope you're not disappointed we didn't get any photos of the Japanese Bazaar!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Slouching Towards Seattle, Inching Towards Life

I'd always been taken by the title of Joan Didion's essay collection - Slouching Towards Bethlehem - until just this minute when I did a quick look into the origins. Apparently, in the poem that coined the phrase, the poet Yeats was actually waxing lyrical about a Sphinx-like anti-christ "slouching towards Bethlehem" to be born. Yikes. Not the image I had in mind at all.

To me, the phrase has less to do with Armageddon, or even Didion's 1960s San Francisco, and more to do with slowly making my way to a holy, life-giving place.

For the last two years, and very much so since moving to Seattle, my motto has been
slow and steady.

I don't even care about winning the race - I'd rather take deliberate steps towards something true, beautiful and worthwhile than busy myself with non-essentials.

In the last few days there's been a flurry of little steps towards a proverbial Bethlehem, so I thought I'd share some fun ways I'm inching forward to a better me and a better world.

going to my first writing group
Inspired by Natalie Goldberg's talk at the Edmonds Writers Conference on Saturday (!), I decided to pop by the Greenwood Writers Group last night. I had no idea what to expect, but part of creating is just showing up, so I did. We wrote for two, fifteen-minute sessions and shared our work after each. This sort of thing is risky, but a definite step in the right direction towards the writing life.

using a faux paper travel coffee cup

Every time I buy a paper to-go cup for a latte I feel convicted - such a waste, so easy to fix. But why are the paper cups so much more gratifying than a mug? The solution - a takeaway mug that looks like a paper cup. Good-bye needless waste, hello amazing talking point.

zipping up the core
If Monday morning's pilates class has anything to do with it, slouching towards any city will be purely metaphorical. That's right, I'm back on the core strength wagon thanks to a sweet groupon the other week for cheap seven-week course. Anyone who knew me in London knows how much I love this expensive practice because it's just so good for the body and general well-being.

weekly vegan
Just as I'm slowly reintroducing meat into my diet, my carnivorous husband Dan goes and suggests we go vegetarian once a week. (Oh I love him!) Now, I can't claim to have gone vegetarian for ethical reasons in the first place (that's another story), and I don't believe in guilt trips at all, but here's a crazy stat for you:

If everyone in the UK gave up meat once a week, the emissions savings would equal taking 5million cars off the road.

Just imagine if everyone in the US gave up meat once a week. Eek!

Going veggie once a week would be too easy for me (and I like a challenge), so we decided
on the vegan option. Go big or go home, in moderation, I say. This week we've got a tasty butternut squash with coconut milk soup lined up. Any suggestions from vegans out there are welcome.

juicing it up
Thanks to the juicer my dad gave me and a certain Top Banana produce store down the street, I've been juicing  up a storm. While it's not bringing global injustice to a blinding halt, I am supporting local fruiterers and defying the processed crap that gets passed off as food in our society, so I'm feeling good.

Small steps are underrated, but they're all part of the same slow journey towards a thriving world for all.

Have you been taking any steps towards something worthwhile lately? Any sweet vegan recipes or juicing secrets to share?

****Blog giveaway update: I still haven't heard from Kendall, the winner of the giveaway. Please get in touch with me by Friday or I'll have to draw another winner! :)

{typewriter photo flickr jennystone}
{beet juice photo flickr di.wineanddinedi.wineanddine}
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